Yuba River Skwala Workshop, January 28, 2021
Four of us set out Saturday, January 30 for the Skwala Stonefly Workshop on the Yuba river. The group featured Jon Baiocchi as instructor and three TVFF anglers; John Magee, Tom Olinger, and Patrick Donovan. The Fishmeister for the trip was Rob Farris. Rob was in typical form being first to arrive and after assuring all details were in place with Jon he was joined by Todd Hyrn. That was the last we saw of them until the end of the day as they bounded off across the river for a couple mile hike downstream in pursuit of the Skwala and surface action.
Jon had prepped us with pre-work and guide quality information for this workshop and everything was top notch. He put a lot of thoughtful preparation into getting us ready with documents that presented the fish, tackle, flies, and tactics. On the river I found him to be very enthusiastic about helping fellow anglers expand their knowledge and skills. He’s also a very patient teacher which is a great trait!
The weather started out a little brisk in the morning but warmed up nicely as the Sun was out in full force. Thankfully the wind Gods were restricted to only the occasional and welcomed light breeze. We met at Hammon Grove County Park and fished in the immediate area about a quarter mile up and downstream from the parking lot. I don’t know our exact metrics, but I think the flows were in the 700 cfs range. If you haven’t fished here, the river is very accessible and relatively easy to wade. Relative meaning the current is very manageable, but the bottom is primarily round cobble ranging from golf ball, to head size. I found a few boot prisons that took a little problem solving to negotiate.
Turning to the fishing, it was a pretty slow pick for us. I don’t have our exact numbers, but I think we had about 10 fish on, and a handful to the net. One turned out to be a nice steelhead buck at about 16”. According to Jon the fish in this river are some of the strongest trout he’s experienced. He attributes that to a very abundant food supply, and few places to hide from the current, i.e. “they’re on a treadmill 24/7 and very athletic”. I can’t really attest to that as my three fish went as follows: 1) spit the hook right after set (no angler error), 2) spit the hook just after getting it on the reel (again, no angler error), 3) “to the net” fish fouled himself on the 2nd nymph which took the fight out of him (hey, truly no angler error).
Patrick’s “Excellent Adventure” Steelhead
Meanwhile on their downstream cross country trek, both Rob and Todd were each toting two rods setup for Euro and dry action. The early day started out nymphing while holding on to afternoon dry fly dreams. Those dreams would not become reality on this day, although Rob did find a few Skwalas having “play time” on his leg at lunch. Around midday Rob was first to get a fish to the net nymphing with a Skwala nymph (actually a Pat’s Rubber Legs masquerading as a Skwala). Soon after Todd was hooked up with a nice fish he estimated around 20”. After working the fish for a few minutes the fish won. Right back into the same seam Todd was hooked up and landed a nice 18-19” fish. Our downstream total at day end was 4 fish to net and a heck of a lot of exercise cobble-hopping.
A nice one in the net for Todd Rob shoreline prospecting on the dry
Rob’s rainbow loving the Skwala nymph Adult Skwala “play time” with the sun out
In summary I think we all had a very pleasant day, especially considering an outing isn’t all about fish count. We were blessed with good weather, a great guide, some excellent instruction, and pleasurable company. Oh yeah, and Mad Max at the Thunderdome – apparently cross river is BLM land (Bureau of Land Management, not Black Lives Matter) and in the afternoon if it filled up with a pretty rowdy crowd of 4 wheelin’, gun totin’ pleasure seekers. So, will I go back to the Yuba for the Swkala hatch – yes. Would I fish with Jon on this, or another fishery – definitely!